A customer stopped by to pick up her half pig today. She lives out of state and waits until the smoked meats are back from the smokehouse to pick up her entire order at once. She has been a loyal and wonderful customer for many years, but today she confided that she still had some pork hocks (part of the pig’s back leg below the ham, and above the foot) hanging around from the last pig (a few years ago).
“What do I do with them?”
Thanks for asking! Sure, many people can throw a smoked hock into a bean soup for flavor or stretch a split pea, but fresh (frozen, unsmoked) hocks are like a mystery meat. So we went digging for some mouth-watering options.
Here are two recipes from Jennifer McLagan’s Bones, a formative book for flavor and using bones to “enhance the taste, texture and presentation of good food.”
Depending on the depth of your love of licorice flavoring, you may choose to include all three layers, or just one or two…
Braised Hock with Fennel Three Ways
1 fresh pork hock, about 2 ¼ lbs.
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 small onion, diced
1 inner celery stalk with leaves, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small leek, trimmed and sliced
½ small fennel bulb, diced
3 garlic cloves, mined
¼ cup pastis or Pernod
One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 cup pork or chicken stock
- Preheat the oven to 300. Pat the hock dry and season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the hock on all sides, then transfer it to a plate. Add the onion, celery, carrot, leek, and fennel to the pot and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown.
- Add the garlic and pastis and bring to a boil, deglazing the pot by scraping up the browned bits. Add the tomatoes and juice, the fennel seeds, the pork stock and 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the hock, along with any juices. Spoon some liquid over the top of the hock. Place the lid on the casserole dish and cook in the oven for 2-2 ½ hours, turning the hock after 1 ½ hours. When finished, the meat will be tender, almost falling off the bone.
- Serve the hock with the braising liquid.
This recipe has a few steps, but the result is totally worth it! Steps 1-4 can be done several days ahead (be sure to store the hock and cooking liquid separately), for a slow-braised dinner that comes together in about an hour.
Pork Hock Cooked with Spiced Honey
1 fresh pork hock, about 2 ¼ lbs (skin on, if you have the option)
Spiced Salt (1/4 cup kosher salt, 1 tsp allspice)
8 cups of pork stock or chicken stock (we actually like chicken bone broth)
5 star anise, broken into pieces
7 green cardamom pods
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 long cinnamon stick, broken in half
½ cup honey
2 tsp white wine vinegar
- A day or two before you cook the hock, coat it in the spiced salt. Cover and refrigerate, turning it a couple of times.
- Preheat the oven to 275. Place the hock in a large pan and add the bouillion, 3 of the star anise, 4 of the cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon of the coriander seeds, and half of the cinnamon stick. Bring it to a boil and then remove from the heat.
- Cover the hock with a lid and braise in the oven for 2-2 ½ hours or until the meat is very tender. Remove the hock, drain it well, place it on a plate. Keep the cooking liquid.
- Toast the remaining 2 star anise, 3 cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds and the half cinnamon stick in a heavy frying pan until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Crush them slightly using a mortar and pestle (or a smaller heavy frying pan works well too!). Put them into a small saucepan, add the honey and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 3-5 minutes or until the froth turns dark and the honey begins to caramelize. Remove from the heat and *carefully* pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. The honey will spit and sputter. Stir to mix and then reheat gently, simmering for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve; discard the spices.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Place the hock in a small roasting pan and add ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400, pout half of the strained honey mixture over the hock and cook for 15 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times. Pour the remaining honey mixture over the hock and cook for another 15 minutes, basting every 5 minutes. Watch the glaze carefully and add a little more cooking liquid to the roasting pan if it begins to burn.
- Transfer the glazed hock to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. Add ½ cup cooking liquid to the roasting pan and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits. Boil until it reduces in half, then add the white wine vinegar.
- Serve the hock with sauce.
Do you have a cut that’s been giving you trouble, or languishing in the back or bottom of the freezer waiting for the “right” time to pull out and experiment with? Have you been waiting for a little bit of inspiration?
Drop me a line and let me know. We’ll find the right recipe for you!
And would you like a printed version of these recipes, plus four more? Check out our FREE downloadable recipe book Hocks and Hams: Cured, Smoked or Fresh–Ideas and Inspirations.